A day after testing his arm with a heavy workload in an intrasquad scrimmage, quarterback Matthew Stafford said Wednesday he was “right on track” as the Rams prepare for their Sept. 8 opener against the Buffalo Bills.
Stafford, 34, is dealing with tendinitis in his right elbow. The defending Super Bowl champion Rams are attempting to manage the condition as Stafford enters his 14th NFL season.
“I know that I’m able to go out there and function at a high level right now,” Stafford said before practice in Thousand Oaks. “So, whatever it feels like, hopefully continues to keep getting better as it has.
“But I know that, functionally, I feel like I can do everything I need to do so just trying to continue on that road.”
Stafford played through pain last season and passed for 41 touchdowns, with 17 interceptions.
During the offseason, he received an injection in his right elbow and he did not throw passes during workouts and minicamp.
In a 60-play scrimmage on Tuesday, Stafford completed 23 of 34 passes. His completion percentage would have been better if not for four dropped passes.
“Just fun to be back out there, you know, letting it rip,” he said.
Asked if his arm issue would be solved before the opener, or if it was something that would require management through the season, Stafford said he was not going to put a timetable on his recovery.
“I’m just going out there doing my work, trusting the process we have,” he said.
Coach Sean McVay has said that the Rams devised a plan to manage Stafford’s workload during training camp and preseason practices.
After reviewing Stafford’s performance in the scrimmage, McVay said Wednesday that he was not concerned about the quarterback’s ability to play.
“Ideally, you’d like him to be totally pain free, but he’s better equipped to be able to answer those questions,” McVay said. “But I know this: Based on evaluating him throwing the football, he looked like the Matthew that I know, and that’s the most important thing, and that was kind of the goal all along.”
But what happens when the season begins?
In 2021, the Rams played 17 regular-season games and four postseason games, concluding with a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
The Rams “always have a plan in season” that includes reducing a player’s workload as he accumulates game snaps, McVay said.
“We always have a pitch count with our quarterbacks, but a lot of it is, ‘How he’s feeling?’ ” McVay said of Stafford. “But I don’t expect to have to manage it any differently than the way that we went through last season.”
John Wolford was Stafford’s backup in 2021, and he finished training camp at UC Irvine on track to fill that role again.
But after saying for weeks that Wolford would not play during the preseason, McVay on Wednesday said Wolford will play the first half on Friday night against the Houston Texans. Bryce Perkins will play the second half.
Perkins earned a roster spot in 2021 with his play in the preseason. Last Saturday, in a 29-22 victory over the Chargers, Perkins completed 10 of 17 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 39 yards in eight carries.
So, an undercurrent of competition for the backup role could be part of McVay’s decision to start Wolford against the Texans.
Wolford has not played extensive snaps since 2020. He started at Arizona in the season finale, and then started and played most of the first quarter in a wild-card playoff game against Seattle before suffering a neck injury.
He did not play during the 2021 preseason. And he took only 24 snaps in three regular-season games.
“You want Matthew to be able to stay as healthy as possible,” McVay said, “but if he did have to do something, we feel like this would be the best opportunity for John to get in there, get into a rhythm and routine.”